A Schedule Change…

lattes

I find this tragically comical to write, as last month I was commenting to a fellow blogger about how I tend to schedule my posts ahead of time. Later last month, my son started school, I contracted pneumonia, and work became a bit more insane than usual. (In case I haven’t stated it, I work in healthcare, and this time of year usually keeps me pretty busy.) Unfortunately, after all of that, my scheduled blog posts have run out, and the pace of life hasn’t allowed me to catch up.

I could just put out very small posts on my regular schedule, though I fear for their quality and the value of their content. I have such respect for my readership (however small) and I wish to, at the very least, maintain the quality of Cozy and Sage. I am so grateful for everyone that has read a blog post or followed my blog! I am still just as passionate about blogging as when I started, and my ambitions for Cozy and Sage have not waned. Although my posting frequency will be lessened, I have hope that perhaps the quality of my blog posts will improve.

I will continue to post at least once a week through the holiday season. I hope to increase my blogging frequency when life settles down a bit and I can create more time to devote to this blogging project that has become…well…let’s say it’s verging on an obsession.

Again, I can’t thank enough all the people who read what I write. I am so grateful and honored that you would be interested!

Wishing everyone health and happiness during this busy time of year.

Stay cozy!

Mediterranean Inspired Quinoa Salad

I must admit, the first time I tried quinoa, I didn’t care for it. I suppose that I had the expectation that it would taste something like couscous (after all, that is what it most closely resembles). At any rate, due to the flavor and (especially) the texture being a far cry from my preconceived notions, I avoided quinoa for, well, years.

I am not currently a super health conscious person, although I used to be. I must admit though, that when I rediscovered quinoa recently, I was most impressed by its nutrition portfolio. According to Healthline.com, 100 grams (about 3 ounces) of cooked quinoa contains 4.4 grams of protein, 2.8 grams of fiber, and a bunch of other good stuff.

In an effort to try to eat a healthier diet, and with encouragement from my husband (who happens to love quinoa), I thought I would give it another try. This time I decided to go with Mediterranean-type flavors. As usual, I also went for simplicity (laziness?), and this salad may be my easiest recipe to date!

Mediterranean Inspired Quinoa Salad

Mediterranean Inspired Quinoa Salad

About 3 cups quinoa (made per package directions, usually 2 ½ cups water to 1 cup quinoa)

1 small package (6-8 oz.) of crumbled feta cheese

1 cucumber, partially peeled and chopped into bite-sized chunks

3 tablespoons favorite Italian dressing (or to taste)

Cook quinoa and allow to cool a bit, for about 20 minutes. Add other ingredients and mix. This salad may be consumed slightly warm or cold and fares well in the refrigerator. Enjoy!

(They don’t know who I am, but I must say, the Kraft Tuscan House salad dressing was great in this recipe! Very flavorful and tangy!)

Mediterranean Inspired Quinoa Salad

Yum!

I must admit, this was a salad I really enjoyed, as did my family. I even used it for a small get together that included a few lacto-ovo-vegetarians and was quizzed about the recipe. Its nutritional characteristics as well as its versatility are quite appealing to me, and I expect to be posting more quinoa recipes in the future!

I hope you enjoyed my very short and sweet recipe today.

My best to all, and stay cozy!

Clinique ‘Superbalm’ Moisturizing Gloss Review

This is another product that I have used on and off for about a decade. It is a necessity for me when we are traveling to very arid climates, or during chilly times of year. It is the one gloss or balm that can keep my lips from cracking when we visit the desert to see relatives. I have gone through at least one tube, I have one that I am currently using, and I have already ordered a backup. Always prepared!

Clinique Superbalm in lilac

Clinique Superbalm in lilac

While I would argue that this gloss is not at all sticky, it does cling to the lips tenaciously. Of course, I believe this is how it helps protect the lips from the ravages of polar winds and torrid climates. In very hot or humid weather it can feel a tad cloying or goopy, but those aren’t usually the situations in which I crave an incredibly moisturizing gloss anyway.

If you are looking for a gloss that provides intense moisture, protection, and shine, I heartily suggest this one! If however, you are relying on a gloss for color, this may not fit the bill. It comes in a small range of colors and they are all quite transparent. The palest lips may see slight variations in shade between them, but most of us will not.

Most of the shades have some shimmer in them, which you can see through the tube; yet, one of the aspects I love about this gloss is that it never looks glittery. The texture is absolutely smooth, if not just a tad thick. There is no odd residue left on the lips after it wears off, and wearing off does take a while. This is most definitely not one of those lip products that disappears minutes after application.

Clinique Superbalm, thickly swatched

Clinique Superbalm, thickly swatched

This is a petrolatum based product that also contains, amongst other things, vitamin E, squalene, linoleic acid, and aloe. It has very little, if any, scent, and no taste. It does not currently contain SPF.

This is unequivocally in my top 10 lip products of all time (and I love lip products). I hope this review helpful and I appreciate the read!

Thanks, and stay cozy!

The New American Dream, Part 3: Money

dollar

“It’s not how much money you make, it’s how you spend it.”

My father has said this so many times that I associate the phrase entirely with him…even if it’s been said by countless other folks.

Perhaps because I heard it so many times, or just because I was young, I never really contemplated what it meant. Fast forward a couple of decades and the implication hits home as I compare my incoming and outgoing expense reports. I suppose it is somewhat natural for most of us to either live at, or slightly above, our means (a budget will generally swell to fill the revenue it’s granted). Yet, it can be so disheartening to see most, if not all, of your hard-earned cash disappear at the end of the month without a trace.

I suspect that’s why people across the United States, young and old, are attempting to live leaner, more functional and fiscally conscientious lives, as discussed in the initial post in this series. In the new American dream, currency is becoming a means to more time, rather than more possessions.

The Money We Make

The manner in which Americans, and millennials particularly, are earning currency seems to be changing. While many continue to procure employment by large companies, more and more folks are cobbling together incomes from various smaller jobs (often referred to as “gigs”), either because there is a lack of employment in their geographical or professional field, or because it fits their schedule or lifestyle better. As company dynamics and economics evolve, sometimes corporate needs call for a more flexible worker who can come and go as needed, or work remotely online.

One interesting aspect in this changing game of cash flow juggling is the phenomenon of “scaling income.” This means that income is generated from a product (usually electronic) or marketing campaign that can be “scaled,” i.e. increased in size or reach so as to escalate revenues (as opposed to the time-for-money exchange that most of us are used to).

Increasing numbers of savvy people appear to be trying their hand at strategies such as affiliate marketing or designing products, while many others are earning profits from training programs, courses, and e-books designed to train people to become successful marketers. Although it’s generally accepted that only a small percentage of affiliate marketing startups actually see success, thousands of people attempt it every year. (I, myself, know very little about affiliate marketing, but  I like to follow Malan Darras’s You Tube channel just for his unique perspective on the subject.)

Of course, maintaining one’s income with “gig’s” or online arrangements typically means that an individual is essentially a small business owner. Therefore, more people are having to become intimately involved with issues such as taxation, insurance, and retirement savings (items typically handled by an employer in days of yore). It will be interesting to observe how this influx of small businesses changes the markets, as well as government policy.

The Money We Spend

Our shopping habits are evolving in this new economy as well. This adjustment is definitely influenced most by millennial spending mannerisms, but it is a pattern that can be seen in all generations. As described in this Forbes article, discretionary spending is slowing down just a bit in the United States, most notably by millennials (though, this may change as millennials buy houses and start families, also mentioned in the article). Folks all over the country seem to be experiencing a need or want to downsize homes and possessions, either for aesthetic or economic reasons, and no doubt influenced by the latest minimalism and decluttering trends. This also means that people are making a concerted attempt to bring no more (or very little) clutter into the home.

Other characteristics of millennial spending are guiding the market, as well as influencing other generations. These inclinations include using social media as a shopping guide and using mobile devices as the primary way to locate, research, and purchase products, as outlined in this Entrepreneur article. Retailers are having to adapt to this new, “hands off” approach to marketing and distributing products by sustaining brand social media accounts and creating beautiful and functional websites. Millennials, particularly, are also very concerned about cost, as the Entrepreneur article eludes to as well. With increased competition in regards to price, both online and physical retailers are having to cut overhead and operate on leaner budgets in order to compete, while also maintaining online operations.

calculator

In summary, the new way to make money is on one’s own schedule, and, with any luck, by one’s own rules.  Work can be done anywhere and performed at almost anytime. Our spending is becoming less dictated by what we desire, and more so by what we require. 

*To read more about my take one the new American dream, you may see part 2 here, and the initial article here.

Thanks for stopping by, and stay cozy!

10 Cozy Meals in About 10 Sage Minutes

KNIFE AND FORK ON TABLE

Do you work? Go to school? Have kids? Live? There are bound to be times in any schedule when a quick meal for one, or a crowd, is required. Here are 10 meal ideas that can be prepared in about 10 minutes and can be scaled to meet your needs.

  1. Cucumber, avocado, and tomato salad– Just slice everything up and add your favorite salad dressing or a splash of olive oil, lemon, salt, and pepper.
  2. Warm tomato and cheese sandwich– Spread a bit of butter on two slices of bread. Top one side with sliced tomato and then your favorite cheese. Bake, open-faced, on cookie sheet in 400 degree oven for about 8 minutes. Take out of oven (carefully), and put two halves together while still warm.

    tomato sandwich caprese

    (this time I added basil and vinegar)

  3. Couscous salad– Make the couscous according to package directions (almost always less than 10 minutes). While the couscous is cooking, chop up some tomatoes and/or cucumbers. Add veggies to cooked couscous along with a bit of your favorite Italian-style salad dressing (or, alternately, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper). This salad is delicious warm or cold!
  4. Eggs on avocado toast– Top slices of toast with mashed avocado and an over-easy egg. Spice with salt, pepper, and a dash of lime juice.
  5. BTC– Just like a BLT (bacon, lettuce, tomato), but the lettuce is replaced by, you guessed it, cucumber! Simply spread mayo on two slices of bread and stack your cooked bacon, tomato, and cucumber. A dash of dried dill or Italian seasoning wouldn’t go amiss here, either!
  6. Chicken burritos– Shred some rotisserie chicken and warm up a can of drained black beans in the microwave. To tortillas, add chicken and black beans, and top with tomatoes, shredded cabbage or lettuce, cheese, sour cream, and salsa. Yum!
  7. Chili potato– “Bake” a potato in the microwave and top with your favorite pre-made chili, a smattering of cheese, and a bit of sour cream.
  8. “Green” Breakfast for dinner– In a warm, buttered pan, add several handfuls of spinach and/or salad greens. When greens are wilted, add beaten eggs and cook to desired (scrambled egg) consistency. Add a favorite cheese, if you like. Serve with whole wheat toast and A1 Steak Sauce.

    Green scramble

    “greens and feta scramble”

  9. Pasta– Ever the perennial simple meal, boiling up some pasta and adding a can of premade sauce, a can of diced tomatoes, or just some olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper is about as easy as it gets. Include a bagged of steamed veggies or (better yet) some cut up peppers or cucumbers on the side to round out the meal.
  10. Lamb Burgers– Like the traditional hamburger, but using ground lamb. Top with feta cheese and Tzatziki sauce and serve with sliced cucumber. (We like cucumbers around here.)

Hope you enjoyed this quick post about fast and simple food. More easy and delicious recipes coming soon.

Thanks for stopping by! What does your family eat on a busy night?

Stay cozy!

Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream Review

Cold weather is coming. The autumn equinox has happened, a chill has returned to the air, and winter is on the way. Something happens to my skin in the fall, it seems to sense the change in the weather a week before, and it begins to dry out. This is the time of year when an old friend of mine re-enters my life after our hiatus of spring and summer.

My trusty Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream is my skin care workhorse during the cooler months.

Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream

I discovered this product several years ago when my son was an infant and suffered from mild eczema. In addition to using the prescription creams we were given, we were also tasked with diligently applying a fragrance-free moisturizing cream twice a day, every day. This led to auditioning countless creams and lotions with the hope of finding one that would actually retain moisture in my son’s skin. This was one of the first few we tried, and it was the one we always went back to after every subsequent failure, until we finally decided that no other cream worked better for his particular skin.

Being the mother of an infant at the time, my own evening skin care routine went from a 5 step process in the sanctuary of my bathroom to a 2 step process that occurred wherever my son was. Baby wipes and Cetaphil cream. It wasn’t glamorous or even necessarily what these products were intended for, but this combination worked beautifully for me then, and does now, especially in the winter months.

Cetaphil moisturizing Cream

My face specifically can get very dry and crepey in the winter which can accentuate the growing number of wrinkles I now bear. My favorite summertime lotions don’t seem to be heavy enough for the winter months as the air can be particularly cold and arid, and seems to draw away light moisture as quickly as it is applied. This cream just feels good to apply, as it seems to absorb into the skin and moisturize all layers of it. In the morning my face feels soft and hydrated, even in the depths of winter. I use this cream on other body parts as well, including as a nightly foot cream, and for hands and elbows.

Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream is a great all-purpose face and body cream that is very rich, and especially useful for the colder, drier weather.

Thanks for stopping by!

Stay Cozy!

The New American Dream, Part 2: Status Symbol

pocket watch, sands of time

Many of us are products of the 80’s and 90’s and can recall some of the items that were popular back then. Certain shoes, cars, and electronic gadgets were considered a sign of wealth and social status (or good credit) at that time. Owning things brought prestige and envy, especially amongst peers and colleagues. The phrase “he who dies with the most toys, wins” was coined.

Fast forward twenty-five years, through 3 recessions, a housing bubble, the healthcare crisis, and crippling student debt. In each case, we have learned something about handling money (or how not to handle it). We have also been awakened to the fact that the economy in most countries, but perhaps particularly the United States, is a living, breathing thing. It is a beast that can both make and ruin people, financially and otherwise, as it waxes and wanes.

For most of us though, through all of the perambulations of the market, there has been the constant of employment. A vocation to pull us out of our student loan obligations and afford accommodations whether they be our own, or rented from someone else. Work, a perceived cornerstone of our nation, and something that we are all taught to pursue passionately. After all, where would all our “things” come from without some form of paid occupation?

flea market stuff

Not to mention that those “things” come with costs aside from their purchase price. It can be alarming to consider that everything you own, you are still paying for (hence, the idea of being “owned” by the objects one has acquired). Ultimately, any “thing” that you possess requires some type of residence, whether that be your abode, a storage unit, or your parents’ house (although those costs may be more intrinsic), and this will usually be something that you have to pay for. These items have physical costs too, such as some form of maintenance, or, at the very least, the time and effort it would require to rid yourself of them.

So, we toil for someone else in order to acquire possessions, we continue to work in order to pay for the said items’ housing and maintenance, and oftentimes must physically use or care for an item to keep it operational. While we usually look at this equation in terms of monetary cost, it could be argued that the largest and most valuable expenditure here is not of dollars, but of time.

wristwatch

Although it’s true that we all get at least some time, it is lamentable that we don’t always get to spend it the way in which we desire. Those fortunate enough to have surplus wealth, however, get the side benefit of utilizing their hours as they choose, rather than for another’s cause.

Accordingly, having “free” time has become a sign of wealth and means. This could be true either because the owner actually has a healthy income, or simply because they are adept at budgeting, and choose time over objects. In any case, the freedom that an individual has due to their possession of spare moments is becoming associated with greater social status, rather than ineptness, as had been the stigma in decades past.

clock tower

Now that seemingly everyone is operating on someone else’s schedule, those that are allowed to function according to their own agenda are seen as the new elite, having escaped the so-called “rat race.” The value of currency is becoming more associated with its ability to grant chronological freedom than the accumulation of commodities. Time, and the freedom to dictate it, are becoming the new signs of prestige, in a nation that has brandished its 40 hour work week as an ideal for so long.

*This article is the second of the New American Dream series.

Stay cozy!

Autumn Three Bean Soup

The air has finally turned chilly and the breeze brings with it a crispness absent in the summer months. The leaves are beginning to change from green to burgundy, and the skies are suddenly greyish. It is time to prepare another fall inspired soup!

I love soup; over the last month I have shared some of my favorite soup recipes. There is nothing like a warm bowl of savory goodness, especially in the cooler weather, in my opinion. Soups can be had as a light supper, or transformed into a robust meal with the addition of bread or sandwiches. They are also wonderfully convenient to feed a large number of people.

During a recent family visit I ran out of white beans while attempting to make a white bean and ham soup that I knew they liked. I ended up varying the recipe a bit and the results received praise all around!

three bean soup and ham

Autumn Three Bean Soup

2 cans white beans, drained

1 can black beans, drained

1 can kidney beans, drained

3 cups water

3 cups broth of your choice

1 pound of diced ham

3 large carrots, sliced

1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke

1-2 tablespoons herbs de Provence (to taste)

Combine all ingredients in a large soup pot. Softly boil on medium-high heat for about 30 minutes, until carrots are of desired tenderness. Notice that the broth is diluted in this recipe due to the saltiness of the ham. This recipe could easily be made vegetarian; to do so, use vegetarian broth (full strength, undiluted) and add some extra vegetables such as potatoes and/or celery to add texture.

Serve with a crusty bread, or as we had it, with garden fresh sliced tomatoes and crackers.

It’s hard to beat the simplicity of a soup like this. Something you can just toss together, and then sit and enjoy the company of family and friends as the scents of salt and rosemary fill the air. This concoction is hearty enough to provide a sustaining meal on its own, but pairs well with a fresh produce accompaniment.

What foods do you crave in the fall?

Enjoy! And stay cozy!

Favorite Concealer/Foundation Brush

I’m not the first person to claim that makeup application is an art form or creative outlet. I consider the act of choosing and applying products in order to create a desired effect both an aesthetic endeavor, as well as a form of self-care. Although my morning ritual generally doesn’t vary much, it still allows me to feed my inner artist. And, like any artist, I have collected my favorite brushes over the years.

I have experimented with many different methods of applying concealers and foundations: brushes, fingers, sponges, etcetera. I have found several of these methods to either not be very effective at blending the product into my skin, or to create streaks in the finish. This Sigma F82 round kabuki brush solves both of these problems.

sigma f82 makeup brush

This brush is a study in both firmness and softness. The bristles are so silky that they are very gentle on the skin, without a hint of scratchiness. Due to the shortness of the bristles and the manner in which they are packed, this brush provides excellent control (a necessity for applying products in crevices or around the eyes). It does not shed, an absolute requirement for me!

As of late, I have not been wearing foundation (I find that the intense light of summer tends to make it look mask-like on my face), but I wear concealer daily. Because I always tend to have a few spots, and my perma-circles are present perennially, I do end up applying concealer to a large part of my visage. Although I have other concealer brushes that I like, this brush not only blends in my concealer flawlessly (no streaks, period), but also quickly. When I am getting ready for work in the morning, dreading my commute, I know that I can accomplish My 5 Minute Face with the help of this brush.

Sigma f82 makeup brush and Maybelline better skin concealer

My morning concealer routine.

When I do wear foundation, this is my preferred apparatus as well. It does not soak up too much product (a virtue praised by the Sigma website), nor is it difficult to clean. It performs as well with foundation as it does for concealer, producing no streaks or unevenness. This brush has been an indispensable part of my morning routine for several years now; if it ever needs replacing, I would do so without hesitation!

What are your favorite makeup brushes?

Stay cozy!

The Perfect Day

It would begin with a long, luxurious bath, followed by a full hour of applying lotions and potions, and a mini manicure. I would look something like Ashley Judd after all this and my outfit would be a quintessential blend of expensive and luxurious, a study of sophistication in dress. I would then be whisked away by my husband to a posh restaurant downtown for a fancy brunch with friends. Parking and traffic would not be problems, and the morning would be a blur of cerebral conversation intermixed with lots of laughing. Later that day, I would fix an early dinner of superb culinary quality, and my family would extol the virtues of such a meal. There would be no tantrums, no exhaustion, no worries about the next day, or regrets about the previous, and we would all get to bed on time.

sunset

Then I wake up.

My work days are chaotic just by the nature of my business, this I have come to accept, but I can get really frustrated by not being able to “control” my days off. There is no such thing as the perfect day, it does not (cannot?) exist. At least it cannot be allowed to subsist as long as I rigidly hang on to my expectations. I find sometimes that clinging to a preconceived notion of how my day “should” progress can cause me more angst than not.

These are the concepts that can help keep me on an even keel and discover the joy in my day, especially when my spoiled, OCD brain is fixated on particular outcomes.

Plan for Alternative Outcomes

Try to plan ahead for a few of the most plausible alternative outcomes. Bring snacks for your small child in case of traffic. Organize an easy dinner option for if and when you get home late. Come up with a different brunch option just in case there’s a closure or a line.

You can’t plan for everything, but there are probably a couple of likely hiccups possible in any arrangement; try to stay prepared for the most conceivable deviations.

Find the Good

Try to suspend expectation if you can. This allows you to experience the moments more fully and appreciate the good that does happen. It’s always prudent to make a plan, but not allowing for variation from a predetermined goal can rob you of the meaningful, brilliant bits that happen whether you are focused on them or not.

If you can’t concentrate on the positive in the moment, it may be helpful to create a gratitude journal and attempt to recapture the pleasurable activities of the day after the fact.

Accept Reality

Bad things do happen, by any one’s standards; sometimes there is no silver lining and no way to justify an outcome. Some of us have a tendency to “go back” and try to sniff out the ways that we “could have” altered an event or instance. This, I have found, is a dangerous game. For one, allowing yourself to feel guilt over something you were not accountable for is soul killing. This practice also implies that you have more power, and therefore more responsibility, than you actually do.

When bad things happen, grieve the moment (depending on the severity), and try to move on. Most loathsome incidences of the day-to-day variety don’t need to be dwelled upon, as doing so doesn’t change the past, and only hijacks your future contentment.

breakfast toast

What, no croissant? Still delish!

Maybe the day didn’t go exactly as planned, perhaps milk was spilled, or the delivery was delayed, etcetera. Try not to let the small issues of the day decrease your joy. Attempt to concentrate on what is going right, and let the problems go. Guilt and cynicism, while common in our current culture, don’t accomplish anything, and they can sap your energy and undermine your goals.

How do you stay happy and mentally flexible? Wishing you all an as-close-to-perfect-as-possible day!

Stay cozy!